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Editorial

Odi: Justice At Last

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Fourteen years after the military invasion of Odi, a Bayelsa State community, its belea-guered people got justice at last as Justice Lambo Akanbi of Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt awarded N37,618 billion damages against the Federal Government for the killings on the N100 billion suit filed by the community against the Federal Government.

Justice Akanbi who awarded N17.618 billion as general damages and N206 billion as special damages as pleaded by the plaintiffs in the judgement delivered penultimate Wednesday also ordered that the money be paid by the Federal Government within three weeks.

We recall that Odi, a community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, was invaded by soldiers on November 20, 1999, on the orders of then President Olusegun Obasanjo over the alleged killing of security personnel on duty in the town by armed gangs on November 4 and 5, 1999.

The military invasion, during which every building in the village-except the bank, the Anglican church and the health centre – was razed, followed the refusal of the community to identify and handover those responsible for the killing of the security men.

Thoroughly exasperated by the overwhelming evidence against the Federal Government, Justice Akanbi, in the salutary and symbolic judgement, described as ‘worthless’ the government claims and counter affidavits, saying that “the destruction of Odi was comprehensive and complete (as) no aspect of the community was spared by what (he) saw in picture showed here.”

Akanbi continued: “the rspondents violated the fundamental rights of the people of Odi, by the massacre. The people are entitled to fundamental rights to life, dignity and fairplay. The destruction of Odi was not as a result of gun battle but clear bombardment, the destruction was malicious.”

Awarding the cost against the Federal Government, the judge noted that no amount could be adequate to solve the pains and trauma of the people in the community. The Tide cannot agree less.

For sometime, the Nigerian government, even under civil rule had ordered the invasion of some communities where citizens were killed, whole communities sacked and so many unprintable things done. Yet, like the case of Umuechem and the others, the people did not know what hit them and got no justice.

The Tide is not unaware of the fact that some persons in those communities took laws into their hands and even provoked the military, a thing that should never happen.

Nevertheless, while we strongly condemn any act of lawlessness in any community, especially, the temerity to attack or kill security personnel sent there to maintain peace as in the case of Odi, it is rather unfortunate that a civilian government could conclude that everybody including women, children, houses and even animals were culpable and should be destroyed. That government could seek to punish a terrorist act by terrorising an entire community, killing over 100 people, is to say the least reprehensible and can hardly be justified. That the Nigerian military could shoot and kill harmless villagers cannot be supported.

The Tide recalls that under President Obasanjo, the people of Zaki-Biam suffered similar destruction, following the alleged killing of soldiers on a peace mission to warring communities.

In sane climes, government, rather than employ excessive force to quell these obvious cases of civil disobedience, would openly take bold steps to hold the dramatis personae accountable through an official enquiry to ascertain the facts as to who instructed the troops to act the way they did, or whether they are entitled to kill and destroy as it pleased them. But this is not so in the Odi case as in others.

The most unfortunate, and indeed, regrettable aspect of the whole scenario is that the civilian population has paid dearly for the misconducts of probably the lunatic and trigger-happy fringe of our security agencies as in the Odi case where “only innocent people, including women, children and the very weak that could not escape were killed” as stated by Justice Akanbi who quoted President Goodluck Jonathan, to underscore the award of damages.

Since the loss of innocent lives and the destruction of properties of Odi people are irreplaceable, the option left for the court is fair restitution which Justice Akanbi has courageously done by the award of damages. Although, no amount would be enough to pay for the lives of the people as the judge rightly observed, The Tide believes that the judgement, commendable, significant and instructive as it were, would serve to keep the nation’s security personnel in check in the face of provocation and make them to investigate cases of civil unrest more deeply to avoid shedding innocent blood.

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Editorial

Trans-Kalabari Road Kidnap: Not Path To Go

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The recent abduction of Lubrik Construction Company’s expatriate staff working on Trans-Kalabari Road by unknown miscreants is deplorable and profoundly distasteful. According to reports, three policemen assigned to the employees were viciously exterminated. The sad incident, said to have occurred on Thursday, September 9, along Sama Road, in Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, is painfully bewildering. It is absolutely the product of disordered minds to ward off the Kalabari people from benefiting from the generosity of Governor Nyesom Wike.
Unfortunately, such an action could be considered at a moment when the governor is trying harder to ensure that progress takes place in every nook and cranny of the state. Several projects are underway in communities across the state with little or no abduction claims. Why Kalabari land? The Kalabaris are known to be peace-loving, who know how to protect what is theirs. Why did they let this happen to such an extensive project as this, which bears direct impact on their lives?
We denounce the kidnapping and appeal to the police, including all Kalabari leaders, elders and the youth, to go after those answerable for this reprehensible and senseless enterprise. The Kalabaris should remember that they patiently waited for 15 years to witness the actualisation of the road project and must hold on to it pertinaciously. Henceforth, youths from the area should be mobilised to secure all government projects in Kalabari Kingdom, specifically the Trans-Kalabari Road, to preserve it from brigands.
Before the onset of the Wike government, Rivers State had long endured abandoned projects, both at conceptual and advanced stages. The Trans-Kalabari Road had been a neglected project from the time of Dr. Peter Odili when it was awarded for the first time for N9billion. The project was deceased even before it was perfectly visualised.
Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi also signalled a N21billion contract for the same road in December, 2012, and committed to mobilise the contractor to the location by January, 2013. That also didn’t take effect. Yet, this was the same government that used about a whopping N40billion on a white elephant project (the Rivers Monorail) which remains blight for the past six years and deserted even before he left office in May, 2015.
However, in March, 2021, the present government declared a contract for the development of Phase 1 of the project at N13.6billion. On June 24, 2021, Wike eventually flagged off the road with a span of 14 months. The road will link six communities and would be reinforced by an irrevocable standing payment request of N1billion that would be paid to the contractor monthly.
At the initiation of the project, the Chief Executive of the state pleaded with the Kalabaris to give up everything that might imperil the realisation of the initial phase of the venture. The governor spoke at the flag-off of the road at the Degema Waterfront, saying, “Do not allow saboteurs to come and kidnap the contractors and sabotage the road. If I hear that the contractors are being harassed, then it is you”.
Thankfully, the ongoing work has offered an end to the relentless promises that previous governments had made to the people about the execution of the contract. Sadly, the governor’s impassioned appeal was never taken to heart. This untoward incident could prolong the culminating date of the project, thereby, undermining the confidence of the sons and daughters of Kalabari, who look forward to the realisation of the historical undertaking.
While we demand the prompt and outright release of the expatriate, we regard the hard-featured occurrence as a huge challenge to establish reciprocity and tranquillity within all the Kalabari project communities. We strongly advise all adversaries of the Kalabari people and Rivers State to stay clear from all project locations and amenities. Law enforcement and stakeholders of the Kalabari Kingdom should enhance their endeavours to emancipate the expatriate worker.
In 2019, three Lebanese expatriate workers from the Raffoul Nigeria Limited were kidnapped in Andoni. Governor Wike immediately reacted by issuing a 72-hour ultimatum to some traditional rulers and the chairman of Andoni Local Government Council at the time to ensure the release of the engineers working on the Andoni Unity Road or be stripped. The threat paid off, as attempts were stepped up, and the men regained their freedom. We call on the governor to apply a corresponding measure in the Trans-Kalabari Road abduction saga. 
Chairmen of the three local government councils of Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema have to work collectively to bring off the freedom of the abducted worker and not stick around, expecting the governor to prompt them to act. They need to take steps to protect contractors and workers labouring on projects in their communities. As chief executives and security officers of their respective councils, they must make certain that contractors are not seized under their watch.
Contractors and workers at construction sites must rely less on the government to assure their security. They need to discover ways to secure themselves against delinquents and portentous gangsters. The first step is to broach a security scheme that will provide a policy for an emergency and ensure that all their workers realise how to react and whom to call. Installing surveillance cameras can help monitor the site as a whole and protect lives and equipment.
Wike has always prognosticated a proclivity to move further projects to Kalabariland. But, the activities of kidnappers in the area can dissuade him. The Kalabari people should see themselves too sophisticated to tolerate brigandage in their midst. Hence, they must close ranks to bring an end to the actions of miscreants who aim to see that the development of the area is nixed. Given that the criminals did not emerge from the sky, they have to be detected.

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Editorial

That Desecration Of NDA

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The contumelious assault on the headquarters of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, by gunmen in the early hours of Tuesday, August 24, is possibly the most menacing sign that the Federal Government may have lost total control of the ungraceful security predicament faced by Nigerians. With this tragic incident and many others counting, obviously, the North-West may have increasingly evolved into the new terror epicentre, as the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism ostensibly dies down in the North-East.
According to media reports, the gunmen took advantage of a chasm in the NDA’s perimeter fencing and stormed the location along Airport Road, Afaka. They gained access to the residential area where two senior officers (Lieutenant Commander Awolor Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Chinecherem Okoronkwo) were shot dead. They also abducted another officer, Major Christopher Datong. The NDA is just steps away from the Federal Forestry Mechanization College, Afaka, where a gang of bandits kidnapped 39 students last March.
Indeed, the NDA, an institution that engenders young men and women to become gallant military personnel, should not come under an invasion of that dimension so easily. The onslaught was a rude reproach to the military, and by extension Nigeria. The Armed Forces ought to have carefully studied earlier raids and taken steps to safeguard their men and institutions. That this did not happen was indicative of imprudence on their part.
The inability to repel or capture the assailants highlights the shortcomings of our security system and demonstrates how daring terrorists or bandits are. Are there moles inside the Army? How would bandits attack a military institution without any effort or considerable resistance? We are asking because there has always been lingering suspicion that people are undermining the endeavours of our military, particularly in the ongoing anti-insurgency and banditry war.
While we vehemently denounce the incursion and call for the perpetrators to be apprehended and prosecuted, we urge that every effort be made to salvage the kidnapped major in the attack. The military must note that the continuous assaults on their men and formations are not only disconcerting, but hazardous as they erode the confidence of Nigerians in their ability to keep them safe. Something has to be done about that. These relentless attacks should be considered acts of terrorism and properly addressed.
In the aftermath of the NDA ambuscade, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt-Gen Lucky Irabor, assured Nigerians of updates on the search and rescue of the abducted officer, and added that “the Armed Forces of Nigeria will continue operations to ensure that all those involved in the dastardly act are brought to justice”. Much as Irabor’s words may be soothing, we believe more can be done to reassure Nigerians that the military is in firm control.
It was reported that the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) was investigating the unfortunate attack. It is a step in the right direction. But characteristic of the government, it should not take eternity to conclude. We call for a thorough inquiry and all those found to have pitched in to the success of the onslaught either through their actions or inactions must face the law. Also, the findings should be released to the public to instil trust in the inquisition.
Nigerians have consistently been experiencing fear and anguish. Most people are afraid of the road these days. Anytime they have to travel, their hearts are always tucked in their mouths. It was no surprise that in 2020, our nation was considered the third most terrorized country in the world for the sixth year in a row. Sadly, and most ignominiously, the authorities have never been perturbed by such unenviable rankings.
Millions of scared Nigerians are wondering what truly is going on. What is happening to our once mighty Nigerian Armed Forces, which were able to keep the nation one during the Civil War between 1967 and 1970, and return peace to war-torn Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Mali and even Libya? Why can the once dominant military power in Africa no longer defend itself from ordinary armed thugs on motorbikes that have clearly become a new frontier for terrorism?
Could it be the insatiable greed of the leaders? Could it be that top military officers have been compromised or put in jeopardy and are politicking with issues as sensitive as security? Have our soldiers lost the will to fight gallantly? Or are their weapons obsolete and can no longer withstand the sophisticated projectiles of their enemy? Or could it be that the military is no more as potent as it used to be back in the day? Those critical questions deserve responses.
What is most perplexing is that the security of our country is degenerating vis-a-vis the ever-increasing military allocations. Official figures indicate that more than N5trillion of our annual budgets have been spent on the military for our defence in the past six years. Allocations to the police and other security agencies not inclusive. All seems to have gone down the drain without a corresponding output.
These bandits have to be regarded as terrorists and treated as such. Lately, they have become very unsparing and appear a step ahead of our security agents. Therefore, they should be handled ruthlessly. Those behind the attacks must be fished out. The criminals must be properly defined, chased after, and apprehended, including their patrons. This can be accomplished by the military intelligence.
There is no doubt that the NDA attack is a special message that the bandits are sending to Nigerians to prepare for more deadly onslaughts. So, the security agencies must brace up. This is to say the least, very hair-raising, and the Federal Government must sit up to protect, not only the military establishments, but the country in totality. Hence, there is a pressing need for a change in our security architecture.
All patriotic Nigerians should be troubled by the attacks on the NDA and other military establishments as they undermine the sovereignty of the country. As a result, security agencies are expected to grow with renewed fervour to tackle this failing condition in the nation. Insecurity is the biggest challenge every government has to deal with, and should not be treated lightly. Additional tactics must, therefore, be deployed to hammer away terror and banditry in the land.

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Editorial

Slaughter Market Demolition: Kudos To RSG

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On Thursday, September 1, the Government of Rivers State commenced the demolition of Oginigba Slaughter Market along Trans Amadi Industrial Layout in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. The demolition came exactly one month after the State government permanently shut the slaughter and the market on account of the health hazards it posed to the people and residents of the state as well as the security and social menace it also posed to the people.
Governor NyesomWike maintained that besides the demolished slaughter being a haven for criminal elements, its location at the Trans-Amadi Industrial Area is now considered inappropriate in terms of the State government’s urban renewal policy.
The Governor only said the obvious as the area around the slaughter has become a death and drug zone. The base of the adjoining bridge not only served as a home to all sorts of criminals, the area indeed had become the drug capital of the state.
Indeed, as Governor Wike explained, over the years, the area had come to be identified as a very dangerous place, where large cache of weapons were harboured and used at will to terrorise innocent people.
To have such a slaughter located in the industrial hub of the state definitely runs counter to the urban renewal programme of government and efforts to return Port Harcourt to its Garden City status.
We therefore see no ethnic, religious or other divisive and less altruistic sentiments attached to the decision to relocate the slaughter to a more spacious and modern facility by the State Government.
This is moreso as the State Government has already commenced the construction of a modern abattoir, fitted with state-of-the-art equipment with capacity for the slaughtering of 400 cattle as well as 1,500 goats and sheep per day at Mgbuosimini, Rumueme in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, where butchers and other related businesses would be accommodated to engage in their activities in a more decent, healthy and conducive environment.
We believe that the action of Government will check the incessant cases of kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and other violent crimes perpetrated daily within the precinct of the Oginigba slaughter market.
Also, with the clearing of the area of shanties that doubled as stalls and criminal covens, residents of Oginigba and commuters through the area will heave a sigh of relief from activities of the men of the underworld that had made life a living hell for them.
We are further gladdened that Governor Wike has said the demolished site would not be left fallow but will house another befitting project that will not only occupy the same land but that will be in tune with the urban renewal effort of the present administration.
The governor has earned the reputation and trust of the people that he keeps to his words as exemplified in the number of projects littered all over the 23 local government areas of the state. That is why The Tide aligns with his assertion that, “Anybody bringing religion or ethnic colouration doesnot mean well for the people of the state and the country. And I am not going to be perturbed; I am not going to be cowed; and also, I am not going to be blackmailed by anybody.”
We believe that no government worth its time in office will stand by and watch miscreants and criminals turn any part of its jurisdiction, let alone a choice area of its capital city, into an enclave where lawlessness reigns, criminals rule and safety and security of lives and property of innocent and law abiding citizens cannot be guaranteed.
We are also encouraged that Governor Wike has taken the war against shanties in the state capital and its environs to every nook and cranny of the state. Evidently, the recent demolition of illegal structures around the Eastern Bypass, Ikoku and other areas within the metropolis and other parts of the state have not only chased criminals away but has tremendously enhanced the beauty of the state capital. We also salute the Governor’s recent order for the demolition of shanties where counterfeit bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are produced side by side some other criminal and illegal activities at Nkpogu area in Port Harcourt.
This is why The Tide salutes the courage, determination and zeal of Governor Wike for standing up to the challenge of ridding the Oginigba area of the Trans Amadi Industrial Layout of the criminal elements, giving the residents a new lease of life and bringing restoration to the area by the plan to site a trademark quality project in keeping with his revolutionary urban renewal agenda.
As in many other areas where successive administrations had failed or feared to tread, Wike deserves nothing but acknowledgement, appreciation, support and encouragement from every well-meaning Rivers indigene and lovers of the state in what he has been able to do at the Oginigba Slaughter Market and other parts of the state as part of a comprehensive effort at identifying and demolishing all criminal hideouts across the state and making the state safe for residents and legitimate business activities.
The Government needs the support of all people and residents of the state. Indeed, only people who do not mean well for the state and its people will complain about efforts to restore sanity to our polity.
All hands of Rivers people and residents of the state should be on deck to realise the vision of Governor Wike to recreate Rivers State as a business destination of choice and a safe, secure and peaceful habitation of note for all law abiding Nigerians and others across the world.

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